What My Hometown Ayodhya Taught Me About Pseudo-Nationalism

I was born in Ayodhya, the terrestrial realm of Hindutva ideation and the land recently at the centre of political controversy – the Ram Mandir/Babri Masjid case.

Although I didn’t grow up in the streets of the town, every few years I found myself on the concourse of the amply debated-upon temple. While growing up, I was narrated Ramayana folklore many times. But back then, I didn’t have the slightest idea that my investment in these tales would go on to become the measure of my loyalty and devotion to my country.

Over the years, the more well-versed I became with the facts, the more distanced I grew from the tales I had always listened to with great fascination while growing up under the roof of my practicing Hindu family.

I spent the majority of my childhood in Lucknow. My sense of understanding of religion was always very personal. I never believed in unrealistic conjectures revolving around fables, and no one in my family ever forced me to do so.

Something I couldn’t have fathomed was that a few years down the line, my religion would be used as a weapon against something as basic as my right to express my beliefs. The definition of nationalism has been subtly manipulated into something that suits the political interests of certain individuals. Any person who isn’t perceived as being an ardent follower and unquestioning worshipper of the Hindutva ideology is conveniently labelled ‘anti-national’.

This chauvinistic branding of Hinduism stems from the minds of those self-aggrandising individuals, who have morphed the organic connotation attached to nationalism by associating it with Hindutva extremism. Quasi-nationalists are running this brigade of patriots, who have somehow marred the line between one’s religious beliefs and their love for their motherland. Anyone whose ideologies do not not align with or are against these radicals, is denounced as being against the country itself.

If refusing to support the dogmatist agendas of a particular ideology makes me anti-national, then so be it.

No longer will I be worried of being erroneously referred to as someone who hates my own country just for critiquing of someone’s religiously fundamentalist approach to running the government. It’s a shame the sanctity of popular religious sentiments is being exploited by several self-proclaimed nationalists for their own political gains.My allegiance to my homeland may be questioned, but I have come to realise that when you ask the right questions, the ones who feel threatened have no choice but to resort to such detrimental arguments.

Also read: My Friends Call Me ‘Anti-National’ – Here’s Why I Don’t Mind

Despite hating to have to wake up early, I was always was up before the sun rose on Independence Day just to witness the celebrations. My heart still wrenches every time I read about my people bleeding. The only difference between my sentiment of nationalism and that of the extremists’ is that I never learnt to differentiate between the blood of Hindus and Muslims.

If being impartial while asking for equal treatment for everyone makes me anti-national then that is who I am.

In the last few years, as the claws of extremism penetrated the essence of my already deteriorating faith, I ascertained that this wave of religious fanaticism would have been more appropriate as a relic of a bygone era. The presence of it is alarming enough, but what is more reprehensible is the fact that so many people go along with it without registering the underlying motives of pseudo-nationalists.

The insensitivity towards minorities that has been created needs to be addressed and eliminated. Those who have been neglected for far too long need to be acknowledged and the intolerance for any opposition to merely exist needs to be contained. Only then can we have a real conversation about nationalism.

Aditi Yadav is a Media student from the University of Delhi. She is a trained classical dancer, an earnest reader, a passionate writer, a refined swimmer and a wanderer by spirit. She is a curator of thoughts and a humanitarian by heart. She spends her weekends volunteering to raise funds and find homes for animals.

Featured image credit: Reuters